Con­nect­ing to the World Bank

South Asia is one of the world’s prime re­gions suf­fer­ing from cli­mate change, in­fras­truc­tural prob­lems, dev­as­ta­tion from nat­u­ral dis­as­ters and crops de­struc­tion. The World Bank ex­tends sup­port in these and other ar­eas with an un­matched re­li­a­bil­ity.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Ta­hera Sa­jid

A key de­vel­op­ment part­ner in South Asia, the World Bank still has miles to go be­fore it can make a real im­pact.

The process of de­vel­op­ment in most coun­tries in South Asia has been slow. It is fre­quently de­railed be­cause of a num­ber of prob­lems such as lack of funds, cor­rupt regimes, and well-in­ten­tioned but largely in­ef­fec­tive lead­ers. In this con­text, the World Bank Group (WBG) has long hon­ored its com­mit­ment to the re­gion by iden­ti­fy­ing is­sues, mo­bi­liz­ing com­mu­ni­ties and sup­port­ing ini­tia­tives of gov­ern­ments, com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions and other stake­hold­ers to keep the de­vel­op­ment process rolling.

With an im­pres­sive port­fo­lio of 215 projects man­aged by its sub­sidiary in­sti­tu­tions – the In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment As­so­ci­a­tion (IDA) and the In­ter­na­tional Bank for Re­con­struc­tion and De­vel­op­ment – the World Bank has been an im­por­tant de­vel­op­ment part­ner in South Asia. In 2012, the to­tal net com­mit­ments of the WB for South Asia reached an as­tound­ing $38.7 bil­lion.

Ac­cord­ing to the most re­cent poverty fig­ures, about 571 mil­lion peo­ple in South Asia sur­vive on less than $1.25 a day. The WB’s De­vel­op­ment Mar­ket­place (DM) of­fers a com­pet­i­tive grant pro­gram that funds in­no­va­tive, sus­tain­able projects for low-in­come groups. The DM has awarded, in ag­gre­gate, US $60 mil­lion to so­cial en­ter­prises iden­ti­fied through coun­try, re­gional, and global competitions. Onno Ruhl, the World Bank’s Coun­try Di­rec­tor in In­dia, ac­knowl­edges that the Bank is com­mit­ted to sup­port­ing in­no­va­tive mod­els and pro­grams “that sup­port un­der­served com­mu­ni­ties, par­tic­u­larly in low-in­come states”.

Its coun­try part­ner­ship strat­egy for In­dia is based on a lend­ing pro­gram of $3 bil­lion-$5 bil­lion each year start­ing from 2013-17 to en­cour­age in­clu­sive­ness of eco­nomic growth, cut poverty to 5.5 per­cent by 2030 from 29.8 per­cent in 2010, and in­crease the share of peo­ple liv­ing above the thresh­old to 41.3 per­cent from 19.1 per­cent.

In Bangladesh, to pro­mote and fa­cil­i­tate pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ships in in­fra­struc­ture projects that of­fer ex­per­tise in eval­u­a­tion, ne­go­ti­a­tion and im­ple­men­ta­tion, the World Bank has been spon­sor­ing 50 per­cent of the op­er­at­ing bud­get of the In­fra­struc­ture In­vest­ment Facilitation Cen­ter (IIFC) since its in­cep­tion in 1999.

Another ex­am­ple of a suc­cess­ful ini­tia­tive sup­ported by the Bank in Bangladesh is that of the Ru­ral Elec­tri­fi­ca­tion and Re­new­able En­ergy De­vel­op­ment Project (RERED). Under this project, So­lar Home Sys­tems (SHS) were es­tab­lished in re­mote ar­eas as an al­ter­na­tive for elec­tri­fi­ca­tion through other sources. Reg­is­tered under the Clean De­vel­op­ment Mech­a­nism (CDM) for car­bon cred­its, the project in­stalled two mil­lion SHSs by 2012. The re­peater Ru­ral Elec­tri­fi­ca­tion and Re­new­able En­ergy De­vel­op­ment Project II (RERED II), which was ap­proved in Septem­ber 2012, is work­ing to cover an ad­di­tional 2.5 mil­lion peo­ple.

The cru­cial sup­port of­fered by the Bank en­abled Nepal to achieve its first Mil­len­nium De­vel­op­ment Goal ahead of the sched­ule when it re­duced its poverty lev­els by half, with a per­cent­age drop from 53.1 per­cent in 2004 to 24.8 per­cent in 2011.

In Sri Lanka, 200,000 house­holds in 1,000 post-con­flict vil­lages have ben­e­fited from in­fra­struc­ture and pro­duc­tive in­vest­ment by the WB that al­lowed for the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of 650 km roads. In ad­di­tion to this, 12,000 hectares of land was brought back to pro­duc­tion.

In Pak­istan, 5.2 mil­lion mi­cro­cre­dit loans were pro­vided since 2000 under the Pak­istan Poverty Al­le­vi­a­tion Fund sup­ported by the Bank. As a re­sult, 4.7 mil­lion fam­i­lies re­ceived in­come sup­port of $12 per month.

The World Bank helps the de­vel­op­ing coun­tries im­prove “ac­cess to af­ford­able con­nec­tiv­ity, trans­form de­liv­ery of ba­sic ser­vices, drive in­no­va­tions and pro­duc­tiv­ity gains, and im­prove com­pet­i­tive­ness”. Its con­sis­tent sup­port for re­forms in the in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nol­ogy (ICT) sec­tor has drawn over US$30 bil­lion pri­vate in­vest­ment for mo­bile net­work in­fra­struc­ture in the IDA coun­tries.

Young adults ac­count for half of the un­em­ployed in South Asia. To ad­dress the un­em­ploy­ment chal­lenge of the tech­nol­ogy-savvy youth, and to en­cour­age own­er­ship of ideas and their im­ple­men­ta­tion, the World Bank and Mi­crosoft re­cently launched a South Asia Re­gional Grant Com­pe­ti­tion in Bangladesh, Mal­dives, Nepal and Sri Lanka. The project has been quite suc­cess­ful.

The WB has also sup­ported projects that cre­ate aware­ness of so­cial is­sues

such as vi­o­lence against women. In Nepal, it funded the Vi­o­lence Against Women (VAW) Hackathon this year where par­tic­i­pants ex­plored ideas and so­lu­tions to com­bat gen­der-based vi­o­lence. Maria Cor­reia, the World Bank’s South Asia So­cial De­vel­op­ment Man­ager, said: “We re­al­ize that en­gag­ing youth and tap­ping into their pas­sion and cre­ativ­ity is crit­i­cal for break­ing out of the cy­cle of gen­der vi­o­lence. Young peo­ple have the great­est po­ten­tial to change their so­ci­ety and the fu­ture.”

Ac­cess to ba­sic ne­ces­si­ties like health­care and qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion is cru­cial to de­vel­op­ment. In the area of health­care, the WB lays em­pha­sis on ful­fill­ing the nu­tri­tion needs of women and girls, and on pro­vid­ing skilled birth at­ten­dants to check in­fant and ma­ter­nal mor­tal­ity. As a re­sult of the WB’s sup­port, in Tamil Nadu, 99.5 per­cent of de­liv­er­ies now take place in med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties. In Nepal, the ma­ter­nal mor­tal­ity rate has de­clined from 538 in 1996 to 380/100,000 live births.

Ed­u­ca­tion projects fo­cus on school en­roll­ment rates and vo­ca­tional train­ing. The World Bank has made sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to­wards ed­u­ca­tion re­forms in Sri Lanka, Pak­istan, Bangladesh and Nepal. In Sri Lanka, 2,825 class­room blocks have been built; in Bangladesh, the en­roll­ment of fe­male stu­dents in sec­ondary schools jumped from 47 per­cent in 2007 to 55 per­cent in 2012. In Nepal, the net pri­mary en­roll­ment has in­creased to 95 per­cent and gen­der par­ity in pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion has been achieved. In Pak­istan, sec­ondary school grad­u­a­tion rate has in­creased from 30 per­cent to 39 per­cent dur­ing 2008-11. In Sindh, the fe­male-male pri­mary net en­roll­ment rate ra­tio in ru­ral ar­eas also in­creased from 61 per­cent to 72 per­cent in 2007-11.

The World Bank pro­vided sup­port to the ed­u­ca­tion re­form pro­gram of the Pun­jab gov­ern­ment in the form of fi­nanc­ing close to $800 mil­lion over the last 10 years. It also helped in the pro­vi­sion of 34 mil­lion free text­books to more than 11 mil­lion stu­dents in the 2010-11 aca­demic year and in the hir­ing of more than 200,000 new teach­ers since 2003. The in­fra­struc­ture of many schools was con­sid­er­ably im­proved with the con­struc­tion of toi­lets, bound­ary walls, and new class­rooms – all sup­ported by the WB.

Greater ac­count­abil­ity and trans­parency in gov­er­nance is es­sen­tial for gov­ern­ments to de­liver bet­ter ser­vices and en­sure eco­nomic well­be­ing of peo­ple. Sup­ported by the World Bank In­sti­tute (WBI), the Dhaka-based Af­fil­i­ated Net­work for So­cial Ac­count­abil­ity South Asia Re­gion,( ANSA-SAR) and Global Part­ner­ship Fund (GPF), pro­mote and strengthen the con­cepts and prac­tices of so­cial ac­count­abil­ity by hold­ing work­shops, dis­cus­sions and de­lib­er­a­tion on de­vel­op­ment-re­lated is­sues.

In Bangladesh, the Bank has been sup­port­ing the Lo­cal Gov­er­nance Sup­port Project (LGSP) since 2006 to strengthen self-ac­count­able lo­cal gov­er­nance. Rec­og­niz­ing its pos­i­tive im­pact, the Gov­ern­ment of Bangladesh has re­quested for an ex­ten­sion of the LGSP-ap­proach to other lo­cal gov­ern­ment lev­els.

The SouthAsia So­cial Ac­count­abil­ity Net­work (SasaNet) is another col­lec­tive ini­tia­tive taken by the Cen­tre for Good Gov­er­nance (CGG) and the World Bank to develop a broader un­der­stand­ing of so­cial ac­count­abil­ity in pro­mot­ing good gov­er­nance among var­i­ous gov­ern­ment and civil so­ci­ety or­ga­ni­za­tions. In In­dia and Sri Lanka, the SasaNet has used cit­i­zen re­port cards and com­mu­nity score cards in de­mand­ing greater ac­count­abil­ity and ef­fi­ciency in the de­liv­ery of pub­lic ser­vices.

The South Asian re­gion has been ad­versely af­fected by cli­matic changes that re­sult in in­con­sis­tent and heavy rain­fall, an in­crease in droughts in In­dia, Pak­istan and Afghanistan, fast melt­ing of glaciers in Nepal, and a rise in sea lev­els af­fect­ing coastal ar­eas of Bangladesh, the Mal­dives and Sri Lanka.

South Asia’s ex­pected pop­u­la­tion in­crease from 1.6 bil­lion peo­ple in 2010 to 2.2 bil­lion by 2050 will fur­ther strain the al­ready scarce re­gional re­sources. To suc­cess­fully nav­i­gate the worst ef­fects of cli­mate change, ma­jor in­vest­ments in in­fra­struc­ture, flood de­fenses and drought- and heatre­sis­tant crops are needed.

The Bank is con­tribut­ing to­wards pro­vi­sion of ser­vices in ir­ri­ga­tion and drainage, re­for­est­ing of wa­ter-logged land, and in fa­cil­i­tat­ing the process of cli­mate-smart agri­cul­ture (CSA) for food se­cu­rity.

It has al­ways em­pha­sized the need for re­gional eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion, shar­ing of in­for­ma­tion and ca­pac­ity build­ing through mu­tual anal­y­sis and di­a­logue. The Bank’s pol­icy stud­ies fo­cus on find­ing the con­straints that make South Asia one of the least-in­te­grated re­gions of the world, with the low­est level of in­tra-re­gional trade.

Re­gional trade in South Asia is even less than that in sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa. To deal with this prob­lem, the WB sug­gests “trade in goods, ser­vices, and elec­tric­ity, peo­ple-to-peo­ple con­tact, and co­op­er­a­tion in wa­ter re­sources man­age­ment among Bangladesh, Bhutan, In­dia, Pak­istan, and Nepal”.

Over the last many decades, the World Bank has sup­ported the de­vel­op­ment process in South Asia through timely and con­sis­tent pro­vi­sion of funds and ex­per­tise. By reen­er­giz­ing the nascent economies and sta­bi­liz­ing the ex­ist­ing ones, the WB proved it­self a truly re­li­able part­ner.

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